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Read report in its entirety, marriage commission urges Anglicans

Posted on: September 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Donald Wilson, of the ecclesiastical province of  British Columbia and Yukon, addresses a question to the commission on the marriage canon. Photo: André Forget

Not all Anglicans are going to agree with the interpretation of the Bible used by the Commission on the Marriage Canon in laying out a framework within which same-sex marriage can proceed in church, one commission member concedes.

“I think I would want people to know that we have taken Scripture seriously. They may not agree with the direction of the biblical theological rationale that’s been offered as being one way to do this, but we’ve not ignored – and we’ve sought a way that we believe is faithful to – an Anglican way of reading scripture,” says Bishop Linda Nicholls, in an interview with the Anglican Journal.

The rationale is also consistent with Biblical scholarship and “with our understanding of marriage and its purpose,” says Nicholls. But whether this rationale is “sufficiently strong” for the church to change its marriage canon to allow the marriage of same-sex couples is up to General Synod, she stressed.

In its 65-page report, the commission offered three models for understanding same-sex marriage: as an “undifferentiated” form of Christian marriage, essentially identical to heterosexual marriages; as “blessed partnerships” rather than covenants before God; and as a “differentiated form of Christian marriage covenant.”

Asked whether viewing same-sex unions as different from heterosexual marriages could be interpreted as being a kind of lesser marriage, Nicholls says, “We’ve been very clear that we’re still talking about marriage. We’re talking about the same vows, the same purpose, and the same definition of marriage.” What they’ve done, she says, is use “a different theological lens” to look at the matter. “It’s a little bit like sometimes you look through a glass and you turn it slightly and you see a different band of colours.”

She acknowledges that it is a concept that may not be easily grasped. “Will it be difficult? It certainly won’t be just straightforward, but I think we do our whole church a disservice if we’re not prepared to be theologically rich and deep.”

Although a summary of the report is being prepared, both Nicholls and fellow commission member Rev. Paul Jennings hope members of the church will read the report in its entirety, since it represents a process of thought rather than just an assemblage of ideas.

“If we don’t have a good theological foundation for what we do, then we just skate across the surface and we don’t understand it, and we don’t ground it in a place where it will take root and live,” Nicholls says.

“I think there’s a certain logical development – I hope – in the biblical and theological rationale,” Jennings says. “We tried to lay it out more or less as we thought through it together.

“What I would hope to call people’s attention to is we’re inviting them to a process of thinking things through, so beginning with, ‘OK, what are we going to take as our starting point here?’ … and coming to thinking logically, ‘Well how could we proceed with this in a way that has theological integrity given the tradition we’ve outlined?’” he says.

The report “takes seriously the creation accounts, it takes seriously our understanding of Christ in the church, and attempts to find a way, as we said, to expand that … without changing the definition of marriage,” Nicholls says.

The report notes that several submissions to the commission invoked St. Paul’s words in Romans 1 as evidence that Scripture considers same-sex relationships as contrary to nature—para physin, in the original Greek of St. Paul. However, it continues, “for Paul “contrary to nature” (para physin) is not necessarily a synonym for “sinful.” For instance, the term … is also used later in Romans to speak of the grace of God, para physin, in grafting Gentiles ‘as a wild olive branch’ onto the cultivated tree (‘natural branches’) of Israel.”

Both Nicholls and Jennings say that, if there was a pivotal moment in the process for them as commission members, it was the reflection that allowing same-sex marriages could be seen as analogous with the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Jewish people’s covenant with God described in Ephesians.

“It’s a different context, a different situation, but it is a pattern of the way God has acted in the past,” Jennings says. “This is a possibility to do what we’ve been asked to do in a way that does not change or devalue the previous teaching on marriage, that makes room for both that and for whatever God still has to offer us with this new experience with same-sex couples.”

With files from André Forget


Anglican Journal News, September 23, 2015

CoGS drafts resolution to change the marriage canon

Posted on: September 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Archbishop Percy Coffin,  of the ecclesiastical province of Canada, asks Council of General Synod about the commission on the marriage canon’s conscience clause. Photo: André Forget

The special session of Council of General Synod (CoGS) has drafted the resolution to change the marriage canon to allow for the marriage of same-sex couples, which will be brought to a vote before General Synod in 2016.

However, members still expressed concerns about the opt-out clause, which allows bishops, clergy, congregations and dioceses to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages on the basis of conscience.

For some, this was merely a matter of understanding what this means technically: Archbishop Percy Coffin of the diocese of Western Newfoundland, who serves as the metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Canada, pointed out that many of the parishes in his jurisdiction are multi-point, and could potentially include, within a single parish, a number of individual churches that held differing views on the issue.

“Is it possible to have a multi-point parish where some congregations decide to have same-sex marriages but not others in the same parish?” he asked.

Lt.Col. the Rev. Marc Torchinsky noted that as a member of the Anglican military ordinariate, he is under the discipline of the bishop ordinary to the Canadian forces, but also serves in a particular diocese—in his case, the diocese of Ottawa.

“If my diocesan bishop says, ‘no you cannot,’ and then the Anglican ordinariate says, ‘yes you can,’ there’s a conflict there,” he said.

While the chancellor of General Synod, Canon David Jones, was able to clarify such cases, explaining that in a multi-point context the individual congregations and not the parish as a whole would have the right to make decisions, and that military chaplains were beholden only to the bishop of the ordinary, other concerns over the clause were more structural.

Dean Peter Wall of the diocese of Niagara felt that the conscience clause goes too far.

“The drafters of the resolution were very generous—I think to a fault—with their interpretation of the word ‘congregation.’” He said, explaining that the Anglican Church “has always been based on synodical and episcopal leadership and direction,” and that he is “concerned about congregationalism,” and the possibility of an individual church telling its priest whom he or she can or cannot marry.

Without discounting the issues Wall raised, Jones explained that the wording of the resolution was crafted to ensure that it would answer the requirements placed before CoGS by the 2013 General Synod resolution that sparked the creation of the marriage canon commission.

The resolution, C003, states that the resolution brought before General Synod in 2016 must “include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”

Jones allowed that “technically, CoGS could amend what it’s sending,” but hastened to add that “what CoGS cannot do is amend it in a way that is not consistent with C003.”

Jones pointed out that while General Synod could amend the resolution if it so desired, the Council did not have the power to change it in ways that would make it incompatible with resolution C003.

However, that did not mean that CoGS members could not voice their concerns.

“It seems to me it might be very helpful to have a discussion about areas of concern—not redrafting the motion,” Jones said, “but naming the concerns we can anticipate will be raised [at General Synod].”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, noted that these are issues that could be referred to the marriage canon working group, which at this time includes the Rev. Karen Egan, representing the ecclesiastical province of Canada; Bishop John Chapman, representing the ecclesiastical province of Ontario; Don Wilson, representing the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon, Tannis Webster, representing the province of Rupert’s Land, and Bishop Linda Nicholls of the diocese of Toronto, representing the marriage canon commission.

Despite these concerns over the conscience clause, the resolution, which is a draft of the one that will be voted on in 2016, is otherwise fairly straightforward: it declares that “Canon XXI (On Marriage in the Church) applies to all persons who are duly qualified by civil law to enter into marriage,” and amends the language of the canon to remove references to “man and woman” or “husband and wife.” It then presents two additional regulations to be added to the canon, which would prohibit same-sex marriage under certain circumstances—for example, if a diocesan synod should introduce a canon banning it within the diocese, if a bishop has banned it within his/her diocese, or if a congregation has ruled not to perform such marriages in their church.

There is also a clause with allows ministers in affirming dioceses to choose not to solemnize a same-sex marriage, provided they refer to couple to a priest who will.

In order for the resolution to be adopted, it must be accepted by a two-thirds majority at two consecutive General Synods, at which point it would become law on the first of January of the following year. By this calculation, the resolution could not be adopted before January 2020.


Anglican Journal News, September 23, 2015

CoGS members react to marriage commission report

Posted on: September 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Lt. Col. the Rev. Marc Torchinsky from the Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada, raises a question after the marriage canon commission presented its report. Photo: André Forget​​

When the Council of General Synod’s (CoGS) received the Commission on the Marriage Canon’s final report, ‘This Holy Estate,  during a special session in Toronto on September 22, delegates were quick to express questions and concerns over how the information in the 65-page report would be disseminated.

The Rev. Norm Wesley, Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) representative to CoGS, explained that there are those in his community who do not read English. Was there a possibility for a translation?

For others, such as Jennifer Warren of Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, the concern was about how much freedom CoGS members had to express their own views on the matter in conversation and on social media—a concern echoed by Lieutenant Colonel the Rev. Mark Torchinsky of the Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada.

Bishop Linda Nicholls, a member of the commission, said she hoped “that COGS members would say to people…please read the report, and please remember that the decision lies with General Synod in 2016.” As for translations, she said this conversation is already underway with the secretary of General Synod, Archdeacon Michael Thompson.

These were not, however, the only concerns. The question of the conscience clause—which would allow bishops and priests who did not support changes to the marriage canon to opt out—was also one the generated a lot of dialogue. Some expressed concern that there would be a “time limit” on it, and that, in time, conservative clergy would be coerced into performing same-sex marriages, while others were critical of the fact that no such exceptions would be made for liberal clergy in a conservative diocese.

Speaking to the Anglican Journal after the presentation, Nicholls said it was imperative for Anglicans across the country to digest the report and understand the arguments it is making and why it is making them.

“If we don’t have a good theological foundation for what we do, then we just skate across the surface and we don’t understand it, and we don’t ground it in a place where it will take root and live,” she said. “It’s well that people understand that marriage is a serious thing; if you’re going to be married in a church, whether you’re a same-sex couple or not, that calls for some deep thinking about what your marriage is intended to show to the world.”

Nicholls also stressed that the report does not suggest ways of changing the definition of marriage as it is currently laid out in church law. Rather, it is looking at changing those parts of the marriage canon that restrict marriage to male-female relationships.

“We’re talking about the same vows, the same purpose, and the same definition of marriage. None of that has changed,” said Nicholls.

She went on to explain that in the view of the commission there are five main points which define Anglican marriage: permanence, monogamy, faithfulness, covenant (as opposed to contract), and the three-fold purpose of help and companionship, the procreation and raising up of children if it may be, and sexuality.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has also commended the report “for wider study” across the church. “”The report is very comprehensive and reflects the commitment of the members to address General Synod 2013’s Resolution C003 in its fullness,” he said in a message posted on the church’s website, “The Commissioners take us into a deep exploration of the theology of marriage and present several models for understanding same sex marriage.”

Given that the Canadian church already affirmed the “integrity and sanctity” of homosexual relationships at its General Synod in 2004, the commission said its  report accepted that the current definition of marriage could be expanded to include same-sex couples.

The full report is available at the Canadian church’s website, and there will also be a summary of the report in question and answer format available for study.


Anglican Journal News, September 22, 2015

Same-sex marriage ‘theologically possible,’ says commission

Posted on: September 22nd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Commission  members present their report to CoGS members (L to R): Stephen Martin, Canon Paul Jennings, Bishop Linda Nicholls, Patricia Bays, The Rev. Paul Friesen and Archbishop John Privett. Photo: André Forget

The church may want to look at same-sex marriages as partaking “in the same covenant” as heterosexual unions, but “on somewhat different terms,” and possibly involving alternate liturgies, recommends the report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, released today.

Just as the New Testament describes the Gentiles in the early church as drawn into the people of Israel’s covenant with God, but not required to observe Jewish tradition, so might the Anglican Church of Canada understand same-sex couples as drawn into the same covenant as heterosexual couples, but in a new way, commission member Stephen Martin told members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), who gathered for a special session in Toronto to receive the report.

“We’re suggesting this might be the more accurate, faithful and biblical way of thinking about what might be happening in the church today,” Martin said. “That is, it’s not a question of us redefining marriage in the abstract to be more inclusive and thereby imply, I don’t know what – that the previous understanding of marriage was wrong. But, it may be simply that God is calling same-sex couples into marriage and thereby broadening and enriching the institution without denying its previous meanings.”

He added: “Maybe God is intending to graft gay Christians into the institution of Christian marriage, sharing its root meaning yet on somewhat different terms.”

This conception of same-sex marriage, Martin said, would involve revising the canon using gender-neutral language, and probably also new liturgies for same-sex couples which would “share the same core vows” as liturgies for heterosexual couples.

Martin cautioned that the model the report was proposing was a recommendation only. “This argument is not an attempt to prove something, to prove that this is the way to go forward,” he said. “We are offering a rationale, that is a way of conceiving of it theologically in a way that we’re suggesting might have integrity. But the church will still have to discern whether this is God’s will for the church.”

It is, he added, one of three “logical possibilities” being put forward by the commission, and something of a middle way between the other two. The other two possibilities, according to the report, are, on the one hand, to see same-sex marriages as an “undifferentiated” form of Christian marriage, essentially identical to heterosexual marriages; and, on the other, to see them as “blessed partnerships” rather than covenants before God.

The commission said it arrived at a conclusion that it is “theologically possible to extend the marriage canon to include same-sex couples, without thereby diminishing, damaging, or curtailing the rich theological implications of marriage as traditionally understood.”

But, it hastened to add, “to say that it is theologically possible to make this change is not to say that the change is theologically desirable.” What the commission sought out to do was “to show how it may be done – not why or even whether it should be done,” it said in its report. “These questions require more than theological argumentation: they require an act of corporate discernment.”

The commission was formed by CoGS as a result of Resolution C003, a 2013 decision by General Synod to bring a motion allowing same-sex marriage to its next meeting in 2016. The resolution asked CoGS to craft the motion, which would amend the church’s Canon 21 on marriage “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples.”

In its report, the commission also concluded that changing the marriage canon to allow for same-sex unions does not directly contravene the Solemn Declaration of 1893, the founding document of the Anglican Church of Canada, which reflects its historic roots in the Church of England and its “theological and doctrinal heritage.”

It noted that when General Synod allowed the remarriage of divorced persons, the ordination of women and the reception of holy communion by children prior to confirmation, they were not deemed to be in contravention of the Solemn Declaration “even though the Church of England had not made those changes at the time they were implemented by the Canadian church.”

Nonetheless, the commission ultimately decided that it was the prerogative of General Synod to determine whether the proposed change to the marriage canon is “in harmony with the Solemn Declaration.”

Among others, General Synod 2016 will “need to discern whether this change is sufficiently rooted in the ‘same Word of God’ and discern its relationship to ‘all things necessary for salvation.’”

It is also up to General Synod to determine whether same-sex marriage “is an area of definition and interpretation of doctrine in which it can make change and, if it, whether it is a change it believes is appropriate.”

The commission’s recommendation of the middle way in understanding same-sex marriage comes nearly at the very end of the report, following about 30 pages of reflection on biblical and theological issues intended to provide the rationale for allowing same-sex marriages.

This reflection is located in what Martin called two “clusters of meaning” around marriage: on the one hand, creation accounts in the Book of Genesis, which refer to the goodness of the union of male and female, and the creation of new life out of that union, and, on the other, New Testament descriptions of the church – particularly in Ephesians 5 – as the body of Christ. The latter points to the concept of Christian marriage as a way of living out the divine command to love one another, so that the basis of marriage is not procreation and the union of male and female but rather its ability to point to Christ’s relationship to the church as a model of love.

In practical terms, understanding same-sex covenants as “a differentiated form of Christian marriage covenant” is also “compatible with the revision of the canon to include same-sex couples (as called for in the resolution of the General Synod),” said the report. “It would suggest a liturgy that allows for variation in the theological background and symbolism between same-and-opposite-sex marriages, while retaining identical core texts, such as the vows.” The draft resolution drawn up by the committee calls for, among other things, amending the wording of Canon 21 to be gender-neutral, substituting “partners” for “husband and wife,” for example.

Seeing same-sex and heterosexual marriages as essentially the same has a number of advantages, the report states, such as simplicity and formal equality. However, it continues, simplicity may not necessarily be desirable; “with respect to theological understanding richness, complexity, and differentiation are desirable traits.” Also, the report states, “this model would seem to change to some extent the definition of marriage for heterosexual couples” by removing “the rich symbolism of heterosexual love from the definition of marriage, leaving the institution more abstract.”

Also, Martin said, “it may be that same-sex relationships have specific gifts to offer the church which would not be celebrated if we tried to fit them into a one-size fits all [category].”

Considering same-sex unions merely as “blessed partnerships” also has some advantages, the report states. For example, it “runs no risk of redefining traditional heterosexual marriage…. No one need fear that marriage has changed.” On the other hand, the report states, “as a blessing without vows, this model does not acknowledge the relationship’s potential to be a place in which the couple exercises their vocation of Christian love by striving to be as Christ to one another in covenanted love.”

“Can the church not discern in these partnerships a sign, an instance, of

Christ’s love for the church?” Martin asked.

In its report, the commission also drafted a motion that includes a provision allowing dioceses, bishops and congregations to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages. Along with formulating the biblical and theological rationale for allowing same-sex marriages, the commission was charged with developing a “conscience clause,” included in the amendment “so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”

The commission’s work also included a consultation process, in which it invited opinions on the issue. It received a total of 223 submissions from individuals representing 26 dioceses, two from theological colleges, three from specialists, three from full communion and ecumenical partners, and six from institutions and organizations. Several submitters argued against allowing same-sex marriages, although whether to allow them or not was beyond the commission’s mandate.


Anglican Journal News, September 22, 2015

CoGS to receive report from Commission on the Marriage Canon

Posted on: September 21st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments




Members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) meet in November 2014. A special meeting of CoGS to receive the report from the Commission on the Marriage Canon will take place this week in Toronto on Sept. 22-23.

CoGS to receive report from Commission on the Marriage Canon

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Members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) will meet in Toronto this week to receive a report from the Commission on the Marriage Canon, paving the way for a resolution on the blessing of same-sex marriage to be made at General Synod 2016.

The report—which will be presented to CoGS members on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and made available to the public later that same day—represents the culmination of work by the commission, formed after the passing of a resolution at General Synod 2013 that called for the preparation of a motion for changes to the marriage canon.

Resolution C003 mandated that General Synod direct CoGS “to prepare and present a motion at General Synod 2016 to change Canon XXI on Marriage to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples, and that this motion should include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”

An amendment to the resolution led to the establishment of the commission (which itself is not a decision-making body), mandating that the motion to General Synod 2016 include “supporting documentation” that would:

  • demonstrate broad consultation in its preparation;
  • explain how the motion does not contravene the Solemn Declaration;
  • confirm immunity under civil law and the Human Rights Code for those bishops, dioceses and priests who choose not to participate in or authorize the marriage of same-sex couples on the basis of conscience; and
  • provide a biblical and theological rationale for this change in teaching on the nature of Christian marriage.

The report that will be presented to CoGS this week constitutes this supporting documentation. No decision on the issue, however, will be made before General Synod 2016.

The starting point for the commission’s work began before 2013, with a 2004 General Synod resolution recognizing “the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”

The bulk of the commission’s work over the last two years has been its broad consultation of individual Anglicans across Canada to offer their perspectives on the blessing of same-sex marriage. The commissioners also consulted a wide variety of opinions, including ecumenical and full communion partners, the Anglican Communion, Indigenous peoples, and gay and lesbian members of the Anglican Church of Canada.

A law firm specializing in labour relations provided a legal opinion on the conscience clause, while other specialists assessed the Solemn Declaration component. Theologians on the commission wrote the theological and biblical rationale for the blessing of same-sex marriage, which makes up the largest chapter in the report.

As requested, the report will include a draft motion as an example of a proposal that CoGS might bring before General Synod in 2016. With the commission’s work effectively complete, it will be the responsibility of CoGS to define the wording of the motion that will be presented to General Synod in 2016.

Ecumenical and Interfaith Co-ordinator Bruce Myers, who is serving in a staff-support role to the commissioners, stressed that it is General Synod that will make the final decision on any changes to the marriage canon.

Even if a resolution passes at the 2016 meeting, he noted, as a canonical amendment it will need to be re-considered at the next General Synod in 2019.

“For some that’s a frustratingly long process,” Myers said. “For others, that extended period of reflection ensures that the decision that comes at the other end is one that’s faithful to the mind of the church.”

Download the report (PDF)


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, September 21, 2015

Canada’s Sisters of the Church to celebrate 125 years

Posted on: September 21st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Sister Margaret Hayward works on a part-time basis at the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office in Toronto, where she is involved with healing and reconciliation matters related to Indian residential schools. Photo: Contributed

On September 26, the Community of the Sisters of the Church (CSC) will gather at St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in Oakville, Ont., to celebrate its 125th anniversary in Canada.

CSC has extended an invitation to all to attend the service, which will also celebrate Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and All Angels (the order’s patron). This particular feast day recalls CSC’s arrival in Canada, when, immediately upon debarking in Montreal on September 29th, 1890, Sisters May and Frederica—the first members of CSC to set foot in Canada—attended the Michaelmas eucharist at the city’s Church of St. John the Evangelist.

Diocese of Niagara Bishop Michael Bird will preside over the service at St. Cuthbert’s, and Bishop Emeritus of Niagara Ralph Spence will preach the homily. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, will also be in attendance.

According to its mission statement, CSC is “an international body of women within the Anglican Communion, living under the gospel values of poverty, chastity, and obedience, desiring to be faithful to the traditions of religious life while exploring new ways of expressing them and of living community life and ministry today.”

Founded in England in 1870 by Mother Emily Ayckbown, the CSC was known then as the Church Extension Association. Responding to “an overwhelming number of requests”  to expand their work internationally, Canada was chosen as the Sisters’ first port of call, said a press release. “With its vast multitude of emigrants [Canada] claim[ed] imperatively such help as we may be able to give.” Soon after its establishment in Canada, CSC spread to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Burma. Today, it operates in four designated provinces: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the Solomon Islands.

CSC’s ministry has taken on numerous forms in Canada, from clothing depots to feeding programs to the provision of spiritual direction. Its current focus, however, is on education and reconciliation. One of its members, Sister Margaret Hayward works on a part-time basis at the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office in Toronto, where she is involved with healing and reconciliation matters related to Indian residential schools.


Ben Graves worked as an intern for the Anglican Journal until August 2015. 
Anglican Journal News, September 21, 2015

Welby calls for primates’ meeting in 2016

Posted on: September 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby hopes the meeting will be an opportunity for a “review of the structures of the Anglican Communion.” Photo: Chris Cox/Lambeth Palace

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has invited the 37 primates (senior archbishops) of the Anglican Communion to a face-to-face meeting in Canterbury in January 2016.

A press statement issued today by Lambeth Palace said, without elaborating, that the meeting would be an opportunity for a “review of the structures of the Anglican Communion.”

It quoted Welby as saying that he has suggested that primates “need to consider recent developments but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion.”

The press statement has already caused some controversy. The Guardian ran an article under the headline, “Archbishop of Canterbury urges breakup of divided Anglican Communion,” to which Lambeth Palace responded by tweeting “Just to clarify, the Archbishop of Canterbury is NOT planning to break up the Anglican Communion.” The headline has since been changed.

The Guardian reported that the archbishop would propose that the worldwide grouping be reorganized “as a group of churches that are all linked to Canterbury but no longer necessarily to each other.” It quoted an unnamed Lambeth Palace source as saying the proposal would allow Welby to maintain relations with both liberal and conservative churches in the Communion, which have been deeply divided over the issue of human sexuality.

Fuelling the controversy  was an invitation extended by Welby to Archbishop Foley Beach, head bishop of the Anglican Church in North America, to be present for part of the meeting. ACNA is composed of clergy and congregations that have left the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church over the blessing of same-sex unions by some dioceses in Canada and the election of bishops in same-sex relationships in the U.S.. The creation of ACNA, which has its own episcopacy, has led to a complicated situation where it is considered fully Anglican by some provinces in the Communion, but is not in communion with Canterbury—one of the traditional requirements of Anglicanism.

In the statement, Welby acknowledged that “we each live in a different context,” and that “the difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians.” But, he pressed for unity, saying,  “A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism. We have no Anglican pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and ultimately found in scripture, properly interpreted.” (The Archbishop of Canterbury is primus inter pares (first among equals) at any meeting of primates and is recognized as the focus of unity for the Anglican Communion, which has 85 million members worldwide.)

Welby expressed the hope that the meeting will enable the Communion “to set a course which permits us to focus on serving and loving each other, and above all on the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said the invitation was “not a surprise,” and nor was Welby’s stated desire to review the structures of the communion. “He’s been quite open about that from early on.”

When it comes to his own thoughts on what a review of the structures should involve, Hiltz sounded a note of caution.

“My hope would be that we don’t just come at a conversation like that from the point of view of saying, ‘nothings working and everything needs to be fixed or made new.’ Because I, for one, don’t believe everything is broken,” Hiltz said, pointing to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) as an example of a “pretty healthy” instrument of communion.

Regarding Beach’s participation in the meeting, Hiltz pointed out that membership in the Anglican Communion is a process overseen by the ACC, and stressed that Beach’s participation does not mean ACNA is a part of the Anglican Communion.

“I think considerable care has been taken with regard to how Archbishop Foley will be present,” Hiltz said. “My understanding is that he will be present for some time in conversation with the primates in advance of the formal meeting… The provision that Archbishop Justin has made, I know…comes out of his passion for and hope of reconciliation.”

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion welcomed Welby’s announcement of a primate’s meeting saying, “The Anglican Communion must now allow the Holy Spirit to intervene in the differences that divide us.” In a press statement, Idowu-Fearon said the invitation extended to Beach “is an opportunity to listen to useful ideas from this group on how we continue as a Communion in light of the search and openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

Invitations have been sent, but how many primates will come? “I’m hopeful everybody will come, but my honest answer is it remains to be seen,” said Hiltz, adding that he does not feel his hope is unfounded. “I think the fact that everybody showed up for his installation two years ago was a really good sign.”

The meeting, the first to be hosted by Welby since he was enthroned in 2013, will also give primates a chance to  “decide together their approach to the next Lambeth Conference,” said the press release.

The primates last met at the Emmaus Centre in Dublin in 2011, a gathering attended by 23 primates. Seven boycotted the meeting over concerns about the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church’s (TEC) acceptance of same-sex blessings in some jurisdictions and their support for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in their churches.

The primates’ meeting is one of the three instruments of communion in the Anglican Communion, the other two being the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference of bishops.

Welby has said he wants a guarantee of broad participation from across the Anglican Communion before he schedules the next Lambeth Conference. The conference, which is an opportunity for the world’s Anglican bishops to discuss and make decisions about issues facing the Communion, is usually held every ten years. The last conference was held in Canterbury in 2008.


Anglican Journal News, September 18, 2015

Wycliffe College Announces Change of Leadership

Posted on: September 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


Toronto — (CANADIAN CHRISTIAN NEWS SERVICE) — Rev. Canon Dr. George Sumner has officially received the necessary consents to become the Episcopal Bishop of Dallas and has officially left his role as the 9th Principal of Wycliffe College.

George Sumner has been the Principal of Wycliffe College for 16 years and has had a tremendous impact on the school and the larger Christian Church with his unique combination of energetic leadership, scholarly vigour and spiritual fervour. Though he will be greatly missed, Wycliffe is overjoyed that he will continue to use his many gifts in the service of Christ and the Church in Dallas.

Bob Hamilton, Chair of the Wycliffe College Board of Trustees summarizes his legacy:”It is hard to measure the large and lasting contributions George has made to Wycliffe. Under his leadership, Wycliffe has grown enormously. Programs, enrolment and financial stability all have increased so that the College may thrive for many years to come. We will miss him very much.”

During the search period for a successor, Bishop Peter Mason will serve as Interim Principal. He is looking forward to the challenge with hope and excitement:”I am grateful for Wycliffe’s confidence in inviting me back to a role I first took up thirty years ago. The world, the church, and Wycliffe have all changed enormously in those decades. I am delighted that the founding principles, the mission and the vision of Wycliffe has only expanded in positive directions. I am honoured and proud to embrace these same guiding precepts for the next few months.”

Wycliffe will hold a series of events at Wycliffe College to celebrate Dr. Sumner’s tenure, with a Wycliffe Open House on October 31st. All are welcome.


Canadian Christian News Service (CCNS), September 17, 2015

PWRDF donates $20,000 to help refugees in the Balkans

Posted on: September 16th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Syrian refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to the Greek Island of Lesbos. Photo: Dimitris Michalakis/Reuters 

On September 11, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Church of Canada’s relief and development arm, announced that it had donated $20,000 to Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance to help provide aid to Syrian refugees in Hungary, Greece and Serbia.

While PWRDF has been raising money to provide aid to Syrian refugees since 2012, it has focused on the three million refugees currently residing in countries near Syria: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. This will be the first time that PWRDF has dedicated money to help nearly 300,000 refugees seeking asylum in Europe. It is doing so in response to an appeal from ACT Alliance, a global coalition of over 140 churches and faith-based organizations

The donation will go toward food, water, shelter, health care, sanitation, education and psycho-social support as well as warm clothing and bedding to help refugees get through the winter. Three ACT Alliance members—International Orthodox Christian Charities, Hungarian Inter-Church Aid, and Philanthropy Charitable Foundation of the Serbian Orthodox Church—are working on the ground in the Balkans.

“There is a need we can concretely respond to through the ACT Alliance,” said Simon Chambers, PWRDF communications co-ordinator.

While PWRDF has an active fundraising campaign for Syria, the money for the donation came from the general operating funds because the money that has come in “has already been spoken for,” according to Chambers. He hopes donors will continue giving to PWRDF’s Syria Response campaign to help pay for the donation. PWRDF started receiving funds for the Syrian refugee crisis in January 2012; as of September 4 this year, it has received a total of $80,155.

While media attention has focused on Syrian refugees, ACT Alliance is also helping others who have fled war, persecution and conflict, Chambers stressed. These include refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia, according to an ACT Alliance press statement.

“Globally, [there are] about 60 million refugees right now, according to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees,” Chambers said. “Four million Syrians—that’s less than 10% of the refugees in the world.”

Chambers voiced concerns over how the sudden interest in Syrian refugees triggered by the photograph of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who died trying to cross the Aegean Sea earlier this month, will affect initiatives to help asylum-seekers from camps in countries such as Burundi or India.

“If Canada accepts 10,000 refugees—which is the number that the government has put forward right now—well, Canada has a cap on refugees of a maximum of 14,000 refugees per year being resettled,” he said, pointing out that this leaves only 4,000 spots for non-Syrian refugees.

The government has announced that it will respond to the crisis in other ways, however  pledging on September 12 that it would match dollar-for-dollar donations to registered Canadian charities, of which PWRDF is one, until the end of the year.


Anglican Journal News, September 15, 2015

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Primates’ gathering

Posted on: September 16th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace

[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury today wrote to all 37 Primates inviting them to attend a special Primates’ gathering in Canterbury to reflect and pray together concerning the future of the Communion.

The meeting, to be held in January 2016, would be an opportunity for Primates to discuss key issues face to face, including a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion and to decide together their approach to the next Lambeth Conference.

The agenda will be set by common agreement with all Primates encouraged to send in contributions. It is likely to include the issues of religiously-motivated violence, the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the environment and human sexuality.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “I have suggested to all Primates’ that we need to consider recent developments but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion and especially as Primates, paying proper attention to developments in the past.

“Our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ meetings since then. It must also be a way forward, guided by the absolute imperative for the church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to make disciples and to worship and live in holiness, and recognising that the way in which proclamation happens and the pressures on us vary greatly between Provinces. We each live in a different context.

“The difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians: when the command of scripture, the prayer of Jesus, the tradition of the church and our theological understanding urges unity. A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together.

“We have no Anglican Pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted. In that light I long for us to meet together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to seek to find a way of enabling ourselves to set a course which permits us to focus on serving and loving each other, and above all on the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

The proposed dates for the meeting are 11-16 January 2016.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will also extend an invitation to Archbishop Foley or his representative to be present for part of the time.


Anglican Communion News Service,  ACNS Today’s top stories, September 16, 2015